Saying Goodbye To Gary

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My wife’s brother passed away last week. Gary was a great guy, a former pastor, a coal miner who survived a cave-in, a father, husband and grandfather. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

Gary had been sick for a long time, so when he passed, it was hard to feel bad for him. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the moment after Gary drew his last breath on earth he took a deep breath of the rarified air of heaven. He went from a hospital bed that he couldn’t get out of to running and jumping on streets of gold. Why would I feel bad for him? He should feel bad for me being stuck here on earth!

We’re very fond of telling people when they lose loved ones, “They’re in a better place…” But are they? We forget sometimes that God has requirements for heaven. The requirements are rigid, unbending and absolute. The good thing is that God also paid all of the price for our entry to heaven when he sent his son, Jesus.

John 3:16-18 says, “This is how much God loved the world:He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why:so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one–of–a–kind Son of God when introduced to him” (The Message).

The thing that struck me most was the way Gary’s family remembered him. One by one his family members spoke of the life and impact of this man. It was impressive. He left behind a huge legacy, and it made me wonder what my legacy will be.

What will people say about me after I’m gone? Will my wife remember me as a good husband, my kids as a good dad? What about my coworkers? Was I a good neighbor, a good community member? What will people remember about me?

The best way to ensure a good legacy is to live for Christ. The great thing about being a Christ follower is not only that heaven is promised to me, but my life is better each day. As I work at being a better Christ follower, I also become a better husband, father, neighbor and coworker. My relationship with Jesus touches every aspect of my life and makes it better. It also reveals whatever weaknesses I have and compels me to improve.

At Gary’s service my wife spoke about her last moments with her brother. She wasn’t sure that her final words of goodbye were sufficient. Gary’s words, though, gave her comfort. Lanette said at the funeral, “I told him, ‘Until next time…'” She said that not knowing that the next time she speaks to him it will be in heaven. So it really wasn’t goodbye, just “see you later…”

I plan to look up Gary when I get to heaven. He will have some good stories to share, and I will finally get to see him without cancer or a broken body.

Until then, Gary… Jerry

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